Laura Pierallini heads the office of Studio Legale Cannata Pierallini, former associated with Coudert Brothers since 2000.
Mrs. Pierallini has been practicing aviation law since 1988, offering a wide range of assistance to airlines, banks, leasing corporation, manufacturers. She also has an extensive experience in litigation before Courts as well as arbitratory panels and provides general corporate legal services, including banking, bankruptcy, labour, various business transaction and securities work (e.g. mergers, acquisition and joint ventures).
Areas of practice
Aviation; General Corporate law; Bankruptcy; Labour; Mergers and Acquisitions; Litigation and Arbitration
Admitted to practice
Member of the Italian Bar Association in Rome, 1986; admitted to the Supreme Court, 1998.
Italian, English, French and Spanish (basic knowledge)
The Supreme Court recently issued an important ruling on the liability and indemnity for damages caused during the supply of airport ground-handling services to airlines. The case originated from an accident suffered by a Boeing 767 aircraft operated by an Italian carrier at Verona Airport whose right wing hit the sliding gate of the hangar – where the aircraft was being recovered – during the towing phase conducted by one of the handling provider's trucks.
The government recently introduced additional measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of specific rules were introduced for the transport of airline passengers which must be complied with by airlines and airports to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Italy. The new rules will be in force until 17 May 2020, but they remain subject to extension or amendments in light of the continuously evolving scenario.
This article provides an overview of measures which the government has implemented over the past month to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with regard to airports, air carriers, passenger claims and drones. As airlines have had to significantly reduce flights and many airports have been temporarily closed, the pandemic has had significant adverse effects for stakeholders at all levels.
According to the 2020 edition of Deloitte's Global Aerospace and Defence Industry Outlook, commercial aircraft manufacturing is going to reach 1,900 aircraft compared with the 1,450 estimated in 2019. Electric-powered aircraft, urban air mobility and automated flight decks are the main goals that the aviation industry must address in terms of technology and digital processes, with the aim of improving productivity and efficiency to meet the high expectations placed on the sector.
The Supreme Court recently found that for gratuitous carriage not performed by an air transport undertaking, damage compensation rights do not expire within the two-year limitation period established by Article 35 of the Montreal Convention. In other words, when the relationship between parties is not regulated by a contract, the general principle of neminem laedere (ie, general duty of care) applies. As a result, the ordinary time-bar rules for liability in tort apply.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently approved a new drone regulation which will ease the transition to the EU Basic Regulation. Although EU legislation has already outlined a clear picture of the rules that will be definitively operational in the next few years, ENAC's regulation aims to safeguard the prerogatives and rights acquired by operators in the period before the EU drone legislation enters into force.
The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) recently published a report on the Italian air transport market, focusing on the developments that would occur if more efficient conditions were introduced. According to IATA, civil aviation is competitive in terms of air transport support, but airport and passenger ticket taxes make Italy the seventh most expensive country at the continental level. This is having an adverse effect on Italy's attractiveness as a location for both business and tourism.
The Administrative Court of Lazio (TAR) recently upheld Wizz Air's challenge and cancelled fines that had been imposed by the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) on the airline for its hand baggage policy. The policy provided that only a small piece of hand luggage to be stored under the seat was allowed on board flights free of charge, while a fee had to be paid for larger pieces of hand luggage.
Due to the continued increase in the number of commercial flights and the resulting growth of passenger compensation claims under the EU Flight Delay Compensation Regulation, Ryanair and Codacons (the largest Italian consumer association) recently signed a valuable partnership agreement which will see them cooperate to settle claims made under the regulation by Italian passengers through alternative dispute resolution.
The Administrative Supreme Court recently ruled on the operation of night-time flights for civil purposes over Italian national territory, issuing a milestone decision that put an end to a 20-year regulatory dispute. The decision means that Italian airports now have parity with those located in other EU member states and has removed the negative effect that the ban had had on competition.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) was one of the first EU aviation authorities to develop national rules to regulate remote-piloted aircraft systems. Pending the EU Basic Regulation's implementation, ENAC has announced the adoption of interim measures and a revision of the existing Italian regulations to align the national legal framework with the implementing acts that the EU Commission will introduce.
The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) recently ordered Irish carrier Ryanair and Hungarian carrier Wizz Air to suspend the implementation of a new hand baggage policy that would have charged passengers extra for bringing a standard-sized trolley on board flights. Both airlines successfully challenged the AGCM's decision before the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, which suspended the AGCM decisions by way of precautionary measures.
Alitalia is a leading Italian airline that has faced financial difficulties and related restructuring projects. Following the government's extension of the deadline for completion of the sale of Alitalia, three prospective investors have presented more structured offers. This run of offers represents a step forward in the sale of Alitalia's business, even if negotiations must still be carried out over the next few months.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently found that – in the context of Article 5 of EU Regulation 261/2004, which can exempt air carriers from their obligation to compensate passengers – a collision between an aircraft and a bird may constitute extraordinary circumstances. The ECJ adopted a divergent approach in its decision that appears to disregard the EU advocate general's 2016 opinion regarding the same case.
The Rome Division of the Tax Commission recently ordered the full refund of debit notes issued by the Lazio region to a foreign carrier for payment of the tax on aircraft noise pursuant to Regional Law 2/2013. The Tax Commission stated that the carrier had not breached EU Directive 2002/30/EC. Accordingly, it cancelled the debit notes issued by the Lazio region to the foreign carrier and ordered a complete refund of the tax paid by the carrier under the tax on aircraft noise.
The most recent Italian case law has upheld the European Court of Justice's interpretation of EU Regulation 261/2004 in Wallentin-Hermann and Van der Lans by qualifying a hidden manufacturing defect as an 'extraordinary circumstance' under the meaning of Article 5(3) of the regulation and rejecting passenger claims for compensation under Article 7 of the regulation.
In a recent decree the Ministry for the Economic Development started the extraordinary administration procedure for Alitalia pursuant to Law 39/2004 and appointed commissioners to lead the company throughout the procedure. The main purpose of the extraordinary administration is to implement a recovery plan meant to preserve employment levels through the financial restructuring of the company, the sale of the business as a whole or the sale of the business, assets and contracts part by part.
The European Commission recently announced its proposal to amend the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, with the aim of contributing to EU climate objectives regarding the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Although the emission and compensation criteria have not yet been clearly defined, according to this new scheme, there will be three main phases to implement the measures set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The Competition Authority has often fined airlines for imposing limits on round-trip tickets which force passengers to take flights in the order listed on the original ticket (ie, the so-called 'no-show rule'). The Council of State recently found this rule to be lawful. However, to protect consumer rights, the rule must strike a balance between the commercial needs of airlines and consumer rights. This decision confirms the increased focus on consumer rights without neglecting the commercial needs of airlines.
Italian courts are facing an increase in judicial claims by debt collection companies for denied boarding and the cancellation and delay of flights pursuant to EU Regulation 261/2004. The claims are based on the assignment of passenger rights to compensation under the regulation. The increase in judicial claims has led to jurisdictional and legal entitlement issues which have been resolved by different Italian court approaches.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued a circular regarding non-scheduled air transport services operated outside the European Union to and from Italian airports. ENAC's rules apply to EU carriers and extra-community carriers on the condition that their states of origin grant equal treatment to EU carriers and are in line with the Italian Navigation Code.
The Supreme Court recently changed its approach to the interpretation of the commercial relationship between airlines and ground-handling companies, with the main focus being the damages suffered by passengers as a consequence of the supply of handling services. The key point in this regard is whether a ground-handling company can be considered to be an auxiliary entity of the airline.
In the past few years the EU legal framework regarding airports has been highly revised, obliging the aviation authorities of member states to revise national regulations accordingly. The Italian implementation process is supervised by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, which has developed a road map for ensuring the Italian airport system's compliance with the new EU rules by the December 31 2017 deadline.
The European Commission recently issued a formal notice to the government for failures in implementing the EU Airport Charges Directive. The commission contested the consultation procedure that aimed to regulate charges at five major Italian airports through contract agreements between airport management and the Italian Civil Aviation Authority. The government is working on its formal comments regarding the alleged non-compliance.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued a new regulation on remotely piloted aerial vehicles, which supersedes the existing regulation in that regard. ENAC makes a distinction between remotely piloted aircraft systems, which are subject to the provisions of the Navigation Code, and model aircraft, which are exempt from the code's provisions.
A recent Constitutional Court judgment established a fundamental rule for the implementation of a regional tax on aircraft noise. The Lazio Region argued that tax on aircraft noise is a matter under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Italian regions. However, according to the court, the guidelines fixed at a national level play an important role in coordinating the implementation of the tax on aircraft noise region by region.
The Competition Authority recently fined low-cost air carrier Ryanair €550,000 for unfair commercial practices, following an investigation opened in June 2014. The investigation arose from complaints by passengers and consumer associations over major difficulties and exorbitant costs when trying to contact Ryanair regarding the fulfilment of contracts.
The Senate has passed into law the Sblocca Italia Decree, which contains the new Salva Malpensa legislation. The new legislation completely restates the article of the former Salva Malpensa Decree, intended to develop air transport to and from Italian airports in order to support the industry and promote the country's economic growth in general.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority has issued a revised circular on the operation of extra-EU scheduled services, which regulates the authorisation and designation procedure for carriers in accordance with international air transport agreements. This attempt to enhance the regulatory framework was influenced by the challenges experienced by the air transport industry in recent years.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued the Regulation on Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles, which represents one of the first pieces of legislation to provide a legal framework for the operation of drones. The use of this kind of aircraft has increased dramatically recently. ENAC's initiative thus fills the regulatory gap within which these professional and commercial operations have been taking place.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has issued a circular to implement Article 802(2) of the Navigation Code, which provides that the ENAC can prevent the departure of aircraft when relevant taxes, charges and fees due by the operator are outstanding. Notice of any such non-payment is given to the ENAC by the relevant airport management company, the Italian Agency for Air Traffic Control or Eurocontrol.
The Italian Air Carrier Association recently challenged the authorisation granted to Emirates in respect of slots and traffic rights to extend its daily flights from Dubai to Milan onwards to New York, alleging that it breached the Chicago Convention, Italian law and the bilateral agreement between Italy and the United Arab Emirates. The court accepted this challenge and nullified the authorisation, although Emirates' appeal is pending.
The Italian Competition Authority recently issued two decisions against leading European low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet, fining them €850,000 and €200,000 respectively, for misleading commercial practices. The authority held that both airlines had failed to provide adequate information in respect of the optional purchase of travel insurance for prospective flight cancellations.
Two recent cases of 'fifth freedom' rights granted by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority to foreign carriers have characterised the mood of the Italian air transport sector of late. In both cases domestic competitors have challenged the relevant authorisations before the courts. The cases concern the rights of Emirates and Qatar Airways to perform long-haul routes to the United States while flying through Milan Malpensa Airport.
Both the Italian carriers' association and the Italian airport association have raised concerns over the effects of the new regional tax on aircraft noise. The Italian Competition Authority recently responded to these concerns by issuing a communication to Parliament and the government under the Competition and Fair Trading Act regarding the competition distortions caused by the varied implementation of the tax.
Law 342/2000 established a tax on aircraft noise, mainly with the aim of financing airport monitoring systems and anti-pollution measures, as well as indemnifying communities living near airports. However, the regional laws implementing the tax have been contested by both the Italian air carriers' association and the Italian airport association, which have underlined the negative impact of the tax on the air transport market.
A planning agreement has finally been approved between the Italian Civil Aviation Authority and Società Aeroporti di Roma, which manages the two Rome airports. However, the new regulatory framework has failed to secure a widespread positive consensus, and the Italian air carriers' association has challenged the agreement before the Administrative Court of Rome.
The government recently approved a law amending financial regulations for the aviation sector, which the local media has named the 'anti-Ryanair rule'. This is because the measure is thought to target the Irish airline, which, despite operating an important part of the Italian transportation market within Italian territory, is not subject to certain Italian laws and regulations on tax, labour and passenger rights.
The first application by an Italian airline has been filed for the concordato preventivo in continuità procedure, a new form of arrangement with creditors which has similarities to US Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The new procedure could be an effective way to assist airlines in restructuring their business and regaining competitiveness in the market.
After months of negotiations the planning agreement between the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and SEA Group has entered into force. The new system provides an investment plan, expected traffic forecast and the fee trend to ensure that the management company can cover costs. The agreement could represent a benchmark for all agreements to be signed by ENAC with the largest Italian airports.
The Italian press recently reported that Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair had overtaken Alitalia as the largest carrier in Italy. Although Ryanair denies this, the coverage has raised the question of whether the airline has a de facto permanent business establishment in Italy and is therefore subject to certain provisions of Italian law on tax obligations, treatment of employees, passenger rights and regulatory issues
In line with a worldwide trend in the air transport sector, Alitalia has identified Blue Panorama Airlines SpA and Wind Jet SpA as potential merger targets. A national consumer association has already asked the Antitrust Authority to refuse clearance, alleging that Alitalia would be in a position to apply predatory pricing strategies to reduce significant competition on certain routes.
The Antitrust Authority has recently examined a merger between two Italian carriers which resulted in the consolidation of their flight operations under joint control. It analysed either geographical or product markets for all services involved, including scheduled flights, non-scheduled flights, cargo services and tour operator services.
ENAC, the Italian civil aviation authority, has recently issued significant measures in the field of ground-handling services. The key changes relate to self-handling - that is, arrangements whereby airlines provide handling services to their own flights and passengers - and the requirements for subcontracting.
New procedures are in force for non-EU air carriers with permission to operate scheduled services to and from Italy. The procedures apply when an operator wishes to change planned flight operations and schedules that have previously been authorised by ENAC, the Italian civil aviation authority. Among other things, they affect certain rerouting, additional flights and replacement aircraft.
Many air operators in Europe would agree that the EU Denied Boarding Regulation is in need of a thorough review, particularly in light of the Sturgeon judgment. The problems of the denied boarding regime are exacerbated in Italy, which faces a number of specific issues not necessarily shared by other EU countries. A number of amendments or improvements would be widely welcomed.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, recently issued a circular which introduces significant innovations relating to the procedures and conditions required for wet lease agreements undertaken by national air carriers. The new circular promises to make licensing procedures for aeroplane and helicopter rentals simpler and more flexible.
An Italian consumer association has asked ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, to consider creating an indemnity fund to protect air travellers from the consequences of service problems, such as delays, flight cancellations, overbooking and lost luggage. However, creating such a fund will not help carriers or handling companies, and could even be damaging.
Following the failed bomb attack on a US flight from Amsterdam to Detroit at the end of 2009, the use of scanning technology in airport security has become an even more urgent issue. ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, is trialling two types of full-body scanner and has considered some of the issues arising from their use.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, now requires every Italian airport with over 2 million passengers a year to establish an airport board with the aim of achieving "continuing improvement in the regularity and quality of airport services". The new system acknowledges the need for a new relationship between ENAC, airport management companies, air carriers and ground services suppliers.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, recently issued a circular on certain procedures and issues related to the allocation of slots at coordinated airports. In addition to clarifying the roles of Italy's coordinator and an airport's coordination committee, the circular sets out the consequences of failing to comply with a slot allocation.
A recent Council of State decision on fuel surcharges promises significant changes to the terms on which airport management companies charge airlines for the use of utilities and services. It follows the principle of EU law that such surcharges may be imposed only in strict relation to the relevant costs.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, has recently issued a circular which establishes new requirements in relation to its role of granting and assessing air transport licences. The circular sets out the reporting requirements for airlines, imposing particular conditions in the event of structural or operational changes or an airline's insolvency.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, has issued a circular to announce the procedure for imposing fines on airlines for breaching the EU Denied Boarding Regulation. The circular explains the criteria used to calculate the size of a fine and outlines the procedural requirements for ENAC and the airline accused of the breach.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, has recently issued a regulation which provides a framework for access for EU air carriers to routes within the European Union and authorization procedures for flights by EU and non-EU carriers between the European Union and other countries. It also restates rules on overflights and landing for non-traffic purposes.
The revision of the Italian Navigation Code has introduced a new regulation on the designation of air carriers wishing to access additional EU routes. The relationship between the air carriers and ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, must be established and regulated by an agreement. The criteria for the designation must be transparent and non-discriminatory, and must be determined and announced in advance.
ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, has issued a new regulation for the certification of providers of handling services in Italian airports. The safety and quality requirements must be confirmed by a certificate, which is valid for a three-year period and can be renewed for a further three years. The regulation also provides for fines for operators which fail to comply.
Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, and ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, have entered into an agreement whereby ENAC, at Eurocontrol's request, is empowered to ground aircraft operated by airlines which have failed to pay route charges to Eurocontrol.
New aviation regulations provide that total airport management companies are regulated by the Italian Navigation Code. Their responsibilities include managing the infrastructure of the airport, coordinating and monitoring the airport operators' activities and ensuring that the airport is run safely and efficiently.
Significant penalties applicable to airlines which infringe EU Regulation 261/2004 have recently been incorporated into Italian law. A new decree introduces fines of between €10,000 and €50,000 which may be imposed on airlines which fail to follow procedures and provide compensation in the event of cancellation or denied boarding.
In the last months of 2005 significant changes in the field of aviation and airport legislation were implemented in Italy. Amendments to the Italian Air Navigation Code affect airport management, utilities and services, safety and aircraft registration, while other legislation revises the airport development and air traffic control costs borne by airlines.